A common question Mark receives whether he’s speaking or, in response to an article is: “What is the best advice you would give to someone just starting out in sales today?” We believe his answer is an interesting one, and since the blog has grown exponentially over these last few years, we thought we’d share this for the many new readers who don’t know this side of Mark. So we transposed and posted it here.
V.V. at StreetCry Media
Question: “What is the best advice you would give to someone just starting out in sales today?”
Mark: “It’s a good question. However, what I’m going to say next will probably put many of you off at first. Yet, what you need to do is not only hear me out, rather, if you doubt what I’m saying that’s fine. Doubt is not a bad thing and you shouldn’t just take what I or anyone else says as gospel. Nevertheless, doubt doesn’t mean discount or discard unless; you have actually researched or tried it and compared results to what you may now be doing. Let me also state: I believe this pertains to not only ‘new’ but also veteran, as well as any business person regardless of the size or scope of your enterprise as well as your title. In other words, whether you’re a new start-up, solo-entrepreneur, or CEO of some mega-global-conglomerate, all can benefit. I know, it’s a bold statement, but that’s what I do.
So with that said it beaks down into two parts. First: I would recommend you either put down, close, shelve, whatever else all of the most recent “sales” books you’ve been recommended over the last few years. Personally, I’ve read most of them, and I am of the opinion that most are nothing more than some form of psychobabble shrouded within the dust jacket of what is called a “sales” guide. Again, in my opinion which is what you asked for; I think most of them are pure junk.
Are there some good ones? Of course, but they are few and far between and most of the good ones were written years ago. Most of today’s are nothing more of a reiteration of those, and because they want to attach their name to them, or be able to affix the ‘new and improved’ moniker as to try to boost a sale. They’ve made the underlying message of how one can actually enhance or make a sale indistinguishable from some form of added junk science or thought experiments.
For the basics, as well as a refresher for a veteran, I personally, too this day still think Tom Hopkins’ – How to Master the Art of Selling Anything is a must. Period. Now here’s why: It covers just about everything one needs to know. It doesn’t matter if you use everything he says, but you sure in heck need to know what’s in there such as closing techniques, phraseology, cold calling principles and more.
Again, whether you use them is not the issue. Knowing if they are ever being used on you can be worth the price paid alone!
Think about that for a minute. Isn’t that also just as important? Now with that all being said let me also add: Today, I am considered a journeyman sales person. In other words it doesn’t matter the product, or if it’s a tangible or intangible. Doesn’t matter if it’s worth fifty cents, or fifty million. Nor do I care if my sales are one-on-one, or to a boardroom. I can hit the ground running and selling faster than most could finish reading their employee manual regardless of product. Why? I know how to sell. I can say this because I have the career or resume’ to prove it, so it shouldn’t be taken as a distinction without a difference.
The ‘product’ per se is a mere detail in the selling process. Far too many are stuck thinking the opposite as in ‘only more product knowledge equals more product sales.’ It doesn’t. Many times, it can hinder if not kept in its proper perspective. If you doubt me answer this question: If product knowledge equaled sales then why isn’t the engineering staff the highest paid? And when a company needs to increase sales immediately one thing you’ll never hear shouted in any serious company is “Get the engineering staff on the road cold calling!”
Once you learn or refresh yourself with that program or book I believe everything else you’ll learn will be out in the field. And what you’ll find more often than not is every sales objection and more will be nothing more than some derivative of the examples discussed or described in that book. Now onto the second part.
Next, I would suggest any and all salespeople, regardless of how long they’ve been at it to watch a televised home shopping channel of their choice. Yes, I did just say that and here’s why.
Regardless of the product both the host as well as the product presenter must not only hit the benefits of their product, but must do it continuously sometimes for hours taking questions, calls, or just to fill airtime. No matter what, they need to find ways as to express why you need their product. Even if they sold a competitors moments or days earlier. It doesn’t matter. They have to come up with reasons why you need this one. Many times, in some ways, not only can you learn, it can be downright comical like “Well we know you just bought X earlier today, but that’s old news, this is the one you need now!” You should be able to do the equivalent with your own products or services. If you couldn’t respond and fill airtime for just one segment of this type of format – than maybe you aren’t as prepared, or as good, as you possibly think or believe you are.
Never mind the benefits of your product and how many you know. You should know at least 10 main objections you may face as to why someone might not buy; and have at least two or three different answers as to why that objection is a positive. If you think I’m kidding or exaggerating like I said ‘this is why you need to watch these programs’ because they do.
Again, you’ll hear negatives spun into a positive so many times, so effortlessly it can be comical when your watching with a changed eye and viewpoint. You’ll hear things like ‘ well we had that deal yesterday that was considered spectacular, but today? This one is stupendous!’ Or, ‘Well the model in blue is now sold out, however, who wants the same blue as everyone else; when you can be the only one to have the mint-avocado model where there’s two hundred million still available!’ Again, the salesmanship and insights are instructive if you watch with a learning eye as well as mindset.”
If you think you can’t find sales insights on the ‘idiot box’ I’ll give you one more that many of you will laugh at however, after I say it you’ll never be able to watch it again, that is if you do at all without harking back to this insight.
Watch any of these programs that are like in the search of aliens, or Nostradamus, or ancient this or that. Listen to the proposed questions about what might be or not and how the framing takes place as to push their hypothesis. An example might sound like this, ‘We dug 3 inches into the soil and found this gum wrapper, however, gum was never seen in this area till recently, how did this foil manage to be covered in any dirt unless? Maybe aliens?’ Of course it’s an absurd example yet, if you listen as to how every question is framed back as to give a reason the show or host is enamored with, you can learn how you too should be able to do similar techniques regarding your own products. And besides, who doesn’t want to learn a technique wrapped up in alien technology? C’mon, why not have some fun with it?
So getting back to this topic with a little more seriousness. Although the examples may at first sound laughable, I’ll reiterate they are anything but – if: you are actively engaged and looking for sales insights as to expand or hone your current sales skills. And I’ll finish with one last point. One might think my recommendation of a Tom Hopkins book or program is old hat, or doesn’t really address today’s sales situations for it was written a few decades ago. Well, it’s a fair point, so I’ll leave you with this.
In 1988 I personally went to a Tom’s sales Boot Camp program. At the time my life had really taken turns for the worse, everything was going wrong. I made a commitment to learn the material, make it mine, and set some goals. Twenty years later, not only had I hit many professional marks, I did them in sales across many different markets from the tangible, to the intangible, small-scale, to large corporate international. Across multiple markets as well ethnic barriers and others to finally retiring 20 years later at the age of 45. While through all of it, as well as what I’ve accomplished as of today, including what I’ve also read thus far: I still believe, as well as recommend it as one of the musts for anyone serious in sales of any type; bar none.
Now one may take that endorsement and question it however you want. Just remember, it’s coming from someone whose accomplished many of the goals many of you are striding for. And still believes it’s one of the best. So make sure you take that into your consideration also.”
© 2015 Mark St.Cyr